Etihad chief Pep Guardiola led his players to a 19-point gap over United, with stars such as Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero firing them to a Premier League and Carabao Cup double.
Red Devils legend Ferdinand, 39, acknowledges his former side have progressed from last season with their second-placed finish.
But now he says boss Mourinho needs to do his homework to get his multi-million pound frontline firing.
Ex-United and England centre-back Ferdinand added: “On paper, this United side is as good as any team in the Premier League.
“If you put our attack against Man City’s players, there’s really not much between them.
“Alexis Sanchez, Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial against Sane, Raheem Sterling, Jesus and Aguero.
“So City are not 19 points better in terms of just pure talent.
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“But it’s about who gets put into the team.
“Also what kind of philosophy there is behind the squad, how they gel. City have done that better than United.”
And Ferdinand feels Mourinho must find a settled partnership at the heart of his defence after chopping and changing between Eric Bailly , Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Victor Lindelof.
Ferdinand, speaking at the launch of the BBC’s World Cup coverage, said: “Next season there is 19 points of work to do.
“It’s going to be difficult. I think Jose needs to know his best back four. Up until now, he hasn’t known his best centre-back pairing — or he can’t get the pairing he has in his head on the pitch regularly enough.
“There have also been all these injuries. None of them have been robust enough to be mainstays.
“He’s never been able to formulate a proper, genuine pairing.
“It is fundamental to any team that wins trophies.”
After winning the Europa League and League Cup in his first season at the helm, Ferdinand admits Mourinho is learning that — at a club of United’s stature — silverware is expected every season.
He added: “The ethos of the club, especially in my time there and I’m sure it’s the same now, was that a successful season was getting your hands on silverware in any way shape or form.
“If you look at the league table, it doesn’t lie. United were second, an improvement on sixth last season.
“If they win the FA Cup, then that will be a major bonus.”
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